FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 20 2016
Contact: Linda Reiner, Vice President, Caring for Colorado Foundation, 720.524.0770
Denver, CO – On Dec. 9, the Community College of Denver (CCD) Dental Hygiene School graduated the first class of its new Interim Therapeutic Restorations (ITR) continuing education course, a requirement of Colorado’s ITR permit process. Among the 19 pioneering graduates, 12 are RDHs representing grantees of the SMILES Dental Project – an initiative supported by the Caring for Colorado Foundation and the Colorado Health Foundation.
With $4.7 million in funding from Caring for Colorado Foundation and The Colorado Health Foundation, this initiative seeks to expand access to oral healthcare for vulnerable populations and will test a new model of delivering dental services in community settings, such as schools using telehealth-connected teams.
The concept of bringing healthcare out of hospitals or clinics directly to where people live, work and go to school isn't new; however, applying these concepts to modern dentistry in wide-scale practice is only beginning. With advancements in technology, there are now many ways to share the important tools of oral health – like x-rays and visual assessments – with experts that may be hundreds of miles away. Colorado House Bill 15-309 supports this model by allowing Registered Dental Hygienists (RDHs) to place ITRs under the supervision of a dentist via telehealth.
“As part of the SMILES Dental Project, we anticipate that the newly-trained dental hygienists will be deployed into community settings starting January 2017, delivering preventive dental care and Interim Therapeutic Restorations for those who have dental treatment needs,” said Linda Reiner, Vice President, Caring for Colorado Foundation. “That’s great news for patients in rural, underserved areas of our state. SMILES expands access for people who face barriers in getting dental care by bringing comprehensive dental care directly to them.”
Nationally, Colorado is on the forefront of expanding access to oral healthcare by broadening dental hygienists’ scope of practice – a cornerstone of the SMILES Dental Project. In a recent editorial for the SMILES blog, Dennis Lewis, President and CEO of Dental Aid, a SMILES grantee – put it this way: “In Colorado, we don’t have enough dentists who treat underserved and uninsured populations, which prohibits easy, affordable access to care for these patients. So we’re always asking ourselves, how can we eliminate or reduce those barriers – like cost, culture, language and transportation – to make things easier for vulnerable populations? The SMILES Dental Project does just that by going where patients already are – whether it’s a school, a food bank, a homeless shelter or a community center. “We’re focused on identifying and treating disease at new sites that will become dental homes where we can eventually go beyond disease and pain management to fostering health management. The evidence for this approach is compelling: cost savings on the medical side – when it comes to emergency hospitalizations, as well as oral health-related pregnancy issues, cardiovascular concerns and cerebral health – are substantial.
“The models we’ve used historically haven’t made enough of a difference, but SMILES has the potential to move the needle and influence and improve how we deliver care.”
Goals of the SMILES Dental Project include:
- Ensure that underserved people have access to preventive services and a dental home;
- Reach Coloradans that are either unable to, or do not, access the current system of dental care within the traditional dental office;
- Expand the oral health infrastructure to provide services in the most appropriate community setting; and
- Strengthen Colorado’s oral health workforce by expanding the scope of care a dental hygienist is licensed to perform.
To accomplish these goals, the following organizations are each receiving three years of funding ($500,000) to pilot a new dental care delivery model in Colorado:
- Dental Aid, Inc., serving Boulder County;
- Mountain Family Health Center, serving Garfield and Eagle counties;
- Salud Family Health, serving Morgan and Logan counties;
- Summit Community Care Clinic, serving Lake, Park and Summit counties; and
- Tri-County Health Network, serving San Miguel, Montrose, Ouray and Delta counties.
Visit caringforcolorado.blogspot.com to learn more.
About Caring for Colorado Foundation Caring for Colorado is a grantmaking foundation dedicated to improving the health and healthcare of the people of Colorado. Together with our partners, we are committed to improving health systems, focusing on population health and prevention and working to solve the most pressing health needs of vulnerable and underserved populations in the state. The foundation serves as a catalyst, building consensus and coalitions to create sustainable health system improvements. For more information, please visit www.CaringforColorado.org
About the Colorado Health Foundation The Colorado Health Foundation works to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation by ensuring that all Colorado kids are fit and healthy and that all Coloradans achieve stable, affordable and adequate health coverage to improve their health with support from a network of primary health care and community services. To advance our mission, the Foundation engages the community through grantmaking, public policy, investing in evaluation, private sector partnerships and strategic communications. For more information, please visit www.ColoradoHealth.org.